The Thing about Florida

My essay collection The Thing about Florida: Exploring a Misunderstood State turns three years old this month! To celebrate, I wanted to give a behind-the-scenes look at my writing process. 

I’ve chosen a few reference photos that helped me write descriptions for essays in the book, published by the University Press of Florida in April 2021. 


Essay: “Reptile People”

Former pet smuggler Tom Crutchfield told me if he didn’t die during his monitor-bite surgery, I could visit him in South Florida. He survived, so I drove to his compound in Homestead. A friend said people moved to the area when they didn’t want to be found. I pulled onto what I thought was Tom’s property. A rooster crowed and Tom appeared. 

He greeted me with a handshake and some distrust. He looked sturdy, like Santa Claus with a sunburn. The surgery for the monitor bite turned his left pointer finger into a zombie appendage. There were too many stitches to count.


(Tom Crutchfield’s hand post-Monitor-bite)


(Tom Crutchfield’s famous and rare  iguanas)


Essay: “A Revelation” 

Most gay folks ignored the “street preachers” in Ybor City who harassed them on weekend nights. But Donald Trump’s election changed things for some in the Tampa community. Days after his presidential win, a small group of activists decided to counterprotest the street preachers. 

Cofounder Aaron Muñoz said about six or eight people initially showed up with rainbow flags. Over the next few months, their group grew to twenty, then fifty, and sometimes more than one hundred people came out on Fridays for the “Wall of Love.”




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